The hard skilled labor of women was symbolized in the United States of America by the concept of Rosie the Riveter, a woman factory laborer performing what was previously considered man’s work. With this expanded horizon of opportunity and confidence, and with the extended skill base that many women could now give to paid and voluntary work, women’s roles in World War II were even more extensive than in the First World War. By 1945, more than 2.2 million women were working in the war industries, building ships, aircraft, vehicles, and weaponry. Women also worked in factories, munitions plants, and farms, and also drove trucks, provided logistic support for soldiers and entered professional areas of work that were previously the preserve of men. In the Allied countries, thousands of women enlisted as nurses serving on the front lines. Thousands of others joined defensive militias at home and there was a great increase in the number of women serving in the military itself, particularly in the Soviet Union’s Red Army.
Several hundred thousand women served in combat roles, especially in anti-aircraft units. The U.S. decided not to use women in combat because public opinion would not tolerate it. However 400,000 women served in uniform in non-combat roles in the U.S. armed forces; 16 were killed by enemy fire.
From 1940 to 1945 the percent of working woman had increased from 25% to 35, by the end of the war, approximately one of four married women worked away from home. In 1943, nearly 310,00 women were working the in U.S. air craft industry.
Annette del Sur publicizing salvage campaign in yard of Douglas Aircraft Company
Woman fixing the bomber
Helper at the round house
Coffee Break at the aircraft
Fixing an Aircraft
Frances Eggleston, aged 23, came from Oklahoma, used to do office work.
Mary Louise Stepan, 21, working on transport parts
Operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, woman is working on a “Vengeance” dive bomber
Pearl Harbor widows
Riveter at work on Consolidated bomber, Consolidated Aircraft Corp., Fort Worth, Texas
Building the War Machine
Woman working on an airplane motor at North American Aviation
Women workers employed as wipers in the roundhouse having lunch in their rest room
All Photos: Library of Congres